The Church in Thailand observed the Nov. 25 celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with a seminar helping form networks to end trafficking and other forms of sex-based violence in the country. The Thai bishops held the seminar Nov. 22 at Xavier Hall in Bangkok, which drew more than 200 participants, including women religious, conscrated laywomen, pastoral workers, teachers, and students. It urged for collaborative networking and action to end discrimination and violence against women throughout Thailand. The annual workshop was organized by Caritas Thailand; Talitha Kum, the International Network of Consecrated Life Against Trafficking in Persons; and the National Human Rights Commission. “Women are not slaves or commodities for sale,” Msgr. Vissanu Thanya Annan, executive secretary of the Thai bishops' conference, said at the meeting. The bishops are deeply concerned about the issue, he noted, and said they have unrelentingly promoted the mission of the Church to “educate, protect, and uphold the rights and dignity of women and the poor.” Msgr. Vissanu pointed to Pope Francis’s persistent call for solidarity and his exemplary endeavors in reaching out to the poor and the suffering victims of violence. According to Sr. Franciose Champen Jiranonda, S.P.C., chairperson of Talita Kum Thailand, “the workshop aimed at fostering collective efforts of networking with the state and private institutions, religious leaders, and citizens to counter violence against women and children.” Sr. Franciose also drew attention to the contributions of religions whose scriptures teach love and nonviolence, urging that in Thailand they help to reform Thais' outlooks so as to build-up a violence-free society. The conference reflected that exploitation and domestic violence against women remains a widespread epidemic in Thailand. With coercion, guilt, and fear, numerous cases also go unreported, putting social stigma on victims, who are also not effectively supported and protected by public authorities. According to the Asia-Pacific office of UN Women, challenges to equality and women's impowerment in Thailand remain in “traditional attitudes and stereotypes which underpin domestic violence and violence against women, low participation of women in politics and decision-making positions, discrimination and vulnerabilities of ethnic and rural women as well as women in the informal sector, HIV prevalence, trafficking and exploitation.” Speaking to the participants at the seminar, Dr. Amara Phongsapich, chairperson of Thailand's National Human Rights Commission, said that “the anti-violence campaign should be a continuous fight against discrimination and violence to bring social justice and change.” She recalled that during the past years the country has witnessed numerous cases of violence against women and children. Testimonies by women victims of violence at the conference evidenced that victims in Thailand lack protection, and that a lack of specialized services for victims of violence and training for professional helpers of victims are both needed. A colonel in the Thai armed forces, Kanokwan Srichaiya, gave a practical session on safety and self-defense techniques to counter the attacks of muggings. “The Catholic Church in Thailand is continuously exploring the quest for practical solutions to address these tangible issues concerning human life and the family,” Msgr. Vissanu told CNA. “Promoting and preserving the gift of human life and dignity is at the core of Catholic teaching,” he added. “It's important to impress on the authorities the importance of upholding rights protection with legislation, and of promoting education.”